What is a PMQ?
Private Military/Married Quarters (PMQs) are housing provided to members of the military and their families. Here in Canada, our Qs are not rank-segregated- officers, NCOs and junior ranks all live together. You don’t need to be married to get a PMQ. Children and pets are other factors that determine the size of your house or apartment. Rank is only a factor later in life when you’re allowed bigger houses based on your function ex. base commander.
Various types of housing exist and vary greatly from base to base:
– Row houses: They look like they’re made out of lego, and are usually quite ugly. For the most part they’re a combination of plastic sidding and brick. Varying colour schemes exist across bases which make for a visual “journey” when searching for an address in Q-town.
Our first PMQ was in a row house, so the first House Tour shows you what you can do.
– A-frames: A 1.5 storey, stand-alone house. It looks like the letter “A” when seen from the side, and they usually have slanted ceilings on the upper floor.
We currently live in an A-frame. To see what we’ve done with the place, take a swing through the Project Gallery while I finish the spaces up for a proper house tour.
– Duplexes of varying sizes and layouts also exist They’re for bigger families have a touch more space and yard to go with them.
Our second PMQ was in a duplex. You can see what we did in our Duplex House Tour.
– Various other models for stand-alone or semi-detached houses exist, but for the sake of simplicity I won’t go into them as they’re not the same from base to base.
The point of a PMQ is to provide affordable and convenient housing for military families. This doesn’t mean we’re receiving the best of the best in terms of quality or design, but the experience you have in each PMQ is entirely what you make of it.
– Proximity: As a military family we work long hours. Proximity to base is key when going to pick up your SO at 2am. It also means you’re that much closer to you friends.
– Affordability: A family of four is supposed to be able to live off the salary of the most junior of ranks (junior NCM/or junior Officer). As such, housing cannot take up more than 25% of the member’s income. After a certain rank the cap is no longer in effect.
– Practicality: We move, a lot. Because housing markets can vary from base to base, and you don’t always get enough warning when you’re posted-out, selling and buying homes on short-term notice or in depressed markets can be a costly financial venture, which is outside of the purview of most military families. As such, housing is usually the cost of a mortgage as would be reflected by the local economy, and affordable for most.
– Community: The sense of community you gain from living near people who live what you do is invaluable. Long hours, deployments, courses, postings, exercises, and midnight trips to the Canex gas station for milk or tampons. Who better to give you a ride to the airport at 3am for a service flight on christmas morning then your neighbour who you picked-up at the airport in a snowstorm.
The downside to Q living is that you aren’t paying into property or acquiring equity. Not only that, but there are limitations as to how much you can “decorate” your space. For good reason though, the housing has to be transferable from family to family and require minimal repairs after you move-out. No one is going to pay to renovate their Q, and painting the walls is not allowed without prior consent. Not only that, but you’re living in very close proximity to people.
So how do you modiffy the structure you live in, to make it a home? Easy, elbow grease and a budget.
Some things you cannot modify in the Q without a permit (attainable through your CFHA):
– You can paint the walls, but be prepared to re-paint them when you move out. There is a magical number of years after which you don’t have to re-paint, but the exact number is the subject of much lore and debate. No one can seem to get a straight answer out of anyone and experiences vary wildly, so buy some extra paint.
– Build structures in or around the Q such as fences, pools/spas, sheds etc.
– Modify the fixtures such as cabinetry, door-handles, light-fixtures, or doors (you can, just switch it back when you move out.)
What you can do in a Q:
– Hang things on the wall! Thumb tacs, nails, and sticky tac are a-ok in my books. So get creative. Nails mean bigger holes, which have to be speckled and painted-over when you leave.
– Work with what you got! Do you have a nice stairway with a window at the top? Same strategic mirror placement can change the distribution of light throughout.
– Pick each room’s function strategically! Does the biggest room in your house really need to house the TV and a couch? what about the other walls in that room?! Where should your bedroom go? street side, or yard side? What about the screaming children next door?
– Pick accents’ and furniture that will fit any future space (as well the one you have). Do not buy a corner bench that fits really nicely in your kitchen if you don’t see it fitting into another kitchen at a later date. Or if you do, don’t go out of budget for a one-house piece unless you’re willing to sell it on Craigslist when you leave. Do pick a bed frame you think can fit into another PMQ (not all floor-plans are created equal). A queen size bed is probably the biggest you can fit in the staircase.
– SET A BUDGET! There’s no point spending your mortgage, and then some, on furnishings for your home if you can DIY them, find them at Target, local thrift stores, or Craigslist ’em for cheap.